The traffic accident Monday that claimed the life of 40-year-old Laurie Hogenson of Sartell was the 11th fatal accident in the Brainerd lakes area since Oct. 1 -- an alarming number in the opinion of one area law enforcement official.
"That's a lot more than we expect. That's an exceedingly high number for that period of time," said State Patrol Capt. Joe Schueller. "If we kept that kind of trend up, we'd be way ... above normal."
There have been 47 more fatal accidents in Minnesota this year than at the same time last year. At that rate there will be about 700 people killed in auto accidents in 2000. Schueller said the norm is about 600 traffic deaths statewide.
There has been no one reason or pattern for why traffic fatalities have increased. Some people weren't wearing their seat belts, others were driving in bad road conditions.
To make the roadways safer, there are two things Schueller stresses for motorists: being aware and wearing a seat belt.
"The first thing is to be aware ... to adjust driving according to the conditions by slowing down, braking sooner, signaling sooner, using your headlights," he said. "The key is to be aware that something is different, that it's not like driving on a summer day, and to be aware that others are experiencing the same conditions."
For seat belts, Schueller has a simple phrase to the effectiveness of the restraints: "They work. It's as simple as that."
Schueller said 65 percent to 70 percent of Minnesota motorists wear their seat belts, but the remaining 30 percent seem unwilling to buckle up.
Thanksgiving weekend, from Nov. 22-26, will be a Safe and Sober weekend for the State Patrol. Troopers will be saturating highways, and the main focus during daylight hours will be seat belts and child restraints.
Over the same weekend and in conjunction with the State Patrol, Crow Wing County law enforcement agencies will be conducting Operation ABC Mobilization, focusing on combating drunk driving and violations of child passenger safety laws.
There were 1,044 accidents, six involving fatalities, in the state over the 1999 Thanksgiving weekend, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Here is the list of area accidents since Oct. 1:
-- Oct. 5. The State Patrol reported Vivian Muyres, 88, Hackensack, was killed in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 371 just north of Backus.
-- Oct. 9. The State Patrol
-- Oct. 18. The State Patrol reported Charles Kramer, 58, Pierz, and Mark Harrington, 38, Baxter, were killed in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 25, about four miles north of Pierz. Dense fog was a factor in the accident.
-- Oct. 19. The State Patrol reported James Martin, 72, Staples, was killed in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 64 at Cass County Road 2, west of Pine River.
-- Nov. 3. The State Patrol reported Anne Marie Frazer, 26, Emily, and her unborn child were killed in a head-on collision on Highway 6, two miles north of Emily.
-- Nov. 7. The State Patrol reported Doug Nelson, 46, McGregor, was struck and killed by a passing motorist while walking on Highway 65 near McGregor.
-- Nov. 7. The State Patrol reported Travis Brueggermeier, 20, New Prague, was killed in a single-vehicle rollover accident on Highway 169/210, four miles north of Aitkin.
-- Nov. 9. The State Patrol reported Constance McCollum, 46, rural Brainerd, was killed in a single-vehicle rollover accident on Highway 371, just north of Baxter. Ice on the roadway was a factor in the accident.
-- Nov. 12. The State Patrol reported Yvonne M. Sharp, 38, Crosby, was killed in a single-vehicle rollover accident on Highway 6, seven miles north of Crosby. A wet and slushy roadway was a factor in the accident.
-- Nov. 13. The Morrison County Sheriff's Department reported Laurie Hogenson, 40, Sartell, was killed in a two-vehicle head-on collision on Morrison County Road 26, about five miles east of Royalton. Ice and slush were factors in the accident.
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